A 72-year-old superior court judge in California charged in the drunken murder of his wife in their plush family home after a night out to dinner allegedly confessed to the shooting in a text to his bailiff and clerk minutes after the bloodshed.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ferguson is accused of pulling a loaded .40 caliber pistol from his ankle holster and shooting his wife, Sheryl Ferguson, 65, through the chest at close range in front of his adult son in the living room of their home in Anaheim on the evening of Aug. 3, court documents obtained by Law&Crime said.
“I just lost it. I just shot my wife. I won’t be in tomorrow. I will be in custody. I’m so sorry,” he allegedly said within minutes of the killing, in a text message to his court clerk and bailiff, who thought it was a joke.
The details came out in a bail motion filing from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office seeking non-monetary conditions to supplement his $1 million bail, set for a hearing on Tuesday. Ferguson faces three counts, including murder and firearm charges, in the slaying. He was free on $1 million bail, court records show. His arraignment is set for Sept. 1.
His lawyer Paul Meyer emailed a statement to Law&Crime, saying, “This is a tragedy for the entire Ferguson family. It was an accident and nothing more.”
The drama escalated after dinner when he allegedly pointed a finger at his wife “mimicking a firearm,” the court document said.
When they returned home, the couple began arguing again for more than an hour, the document said.
Just before being shot, Sheryl Ferguson referred to her husband’s earlier hand gesture at the restaurant, uttering, “Why don’t you point a real gun at me?” just before he shot her, the document said without indicating where police obtained this information.
His son called 911, reporting his father had been drinking too much, had argued with his mother, and shot her, court documents said.
Shortly after the son called 911, the suspect called 911 to report “vaguely” that his wife had been shot, the court document said.
“When asked whether he shot his wife, Defendant responded that he did not want to talk about it now and, when asked again, responded that his wife needed paramedics,” the document said.
When patrol officers contacted him, he was allegedly still wearing the empty ankle holster, and “he asked patrol officers to shoot him,” the document said.
“He slurred words and smelled of alcohol,” the document said.
Police body camera footage captured him making several obscenity-laced statements, including: “f— … f— … what the f— did I … well, I guess I’m done for a while … s—. s— me… s— me… s—… oh my God … my son … my son … f— me … What an a—— I am, Jesus Christ.”
“I’m sorry … I f—– up.”
“Oh man, I can’t believe I did this.”
During a search of his home, police found 47 guns — rifles, shotguns, and a handgun — and over 26,000 rounds of ammunition — all firearms he legally owned. The murder weapon, recovered from the scene, is a Glock .40-caliber pistol. A spent .40-caliber casing was recovered from the floor in front of the couch.
Ferguson, a former member of the U.S. Navy, started his legal career as a deputy district attorney in the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, where he spent over 30 years. Until his arrest, Ferguson was assigned to handle preliminary hearing felony calendar cases in Orange County. He served as a judge since 2015.
Ferguson served as president of the North Orange County Bar Association from 2012 to 2014. He was elected to the Orange County Superior Court bench on June 3, 2014.
During his career, he was named Prosecutor of the Year four times by the Orange County Narcotic Officers Association.
Orange County Superior Court Presiding Judge Maria Hernandez released a statement to multiple news outlets wishing Sheryl Ferguson’s family thoughts and prayers.
“Although no case has been filed with our court, when appropriate, we will take all necessary steps to ensure full compliance with our legal and ethical obligations,” she said. “As this is a pending matter still under investigation, the court is unable to provide any further information at this time.”
In 2017, Ferguson found himself at the center of a controversy that ended with him being formally rebuked by the Commission on Judicial Performance after a lewd comment posted to his Facebook page.
Law&Crime’s Jerry Lambe contributed to this report.
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